“We met Pope Francis and he asked us to pray for him,” he says.
On September 6, 2015, Pope Francis made this appeal in St. Peter’s Square.
Sept. 6, 2015
“Let every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every shrine of Europe welcome one family.”
A few kilometers away, at the same time Pope Francis was speaking, Semaan landed in Rome from Syria. He, his wife and two children had just become Syrian refugees in Italy.
However, the most surprising part was yet to come. The pope was the first to lead by example and a week after his petition, he welcomed this Syrian Christian and his family in the Vatican parish.
“There are also inexplicable coincidences. They thought, ‘they are a Christian family that came from Syria,’ and we arrived at the same time the pope made the appeal. It seemed surprising to them. I was not planning to come that day, not even at that hour. Maybe that was why they offered us the house.”
Before boarding the plane that took him to Cuba and the United States, the pope received a visit from Semaan and his family, who wanted to thank him for his generosity. The family left Pope Francis very shocked.
“I was very moved that today, in Casa Santa Marta, I met one of the two Syrian refugee families being hosted in the Vatican, in Saint Anna’s parish, Syrian refugees. You could see the pain on their faces.”
“I remember a very beautiful thing when we met him. We talked and said, ‘Pray for us.’ But he replied, ‘No, no. Pray for me.’ His humility really surprised us.”
This neighborhood is where they lived for a year, in the house of the Papal Almoner, Konrad Krajewsky. Just a few weeks ago, he gave it away to another Syrian refugee family. When Semaad could afford to pay for a house, he left this home available to anyone who might need it. With the war, this man from Damascus who was dedicated to tourism lost everything. Nevertheless, he considers himself very fortunate because he says God has always been on his side.
“I always consider myself lucky in life. The Lord has always been at my side. In various difficult moments and also in those of joy and happiness. I believe I am fortunate and I am convinced that the Holy Spirit acts very, very much in our family. Also in the most difficult and dark moments, I have strongly felt God’s presence.”
Semaan works here at Radio Maria in Arabic, a radio channel that Pope Francis himself promoted, so that the pope’s voice and the closeness of the Church could reach all persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
This Syrian Greek-Melkite Catholic has a petition for Christians around the world: Do not abandon your brothers from the land where the Apostle Paul came from, a country Semaan yearns to return someday when the longed for peace arrives.